PROJECT #BEYOUROWN WOMAN: AKVILE LES
After studying Painting in Vilnius Art Academy, a gorgeous building located in a Gothic monastery once built by Bernardine monks, and an exchange programme in Milan’s Brera Academy, Akviles Les then followed a master’s degree in Creative Business
Akvile’s Les shares her story
I’m an artist who paints with lipsticks on canvas and a creative strategist, helping brands to stand out and enhance visual communications. By reusing old lipsticks, I delve into the narratives of style and women and explore creative sustainability.
After studying Painting in Vilnius Art Academy, a gorgeous building located in a Gothic monastery once built by Bernardine monks, and an exchange programme in Milan’s Brera Academy, I then followed a master’s degree in Creative Business. I’ve never imagined myself working alone in the studio, hence I’ve spent years editing a fashion magazine and working in luxury PR in the design sector, keeping my finger on the pulse and intertwining the two with my art. Today, I draw, create paintings, and collaborate with brands on various PR campaigns.
In 2012, as I was working on the canvas series for my graduation exhibition, I still had the feeling that something was missing. Time was tight – I had a few months, which would be enough but it did not give me the freedom to experiment until the last minute.
Since paintings created using oils take too much time to dry, up to a month, I started experimenting. At some point, I glanced at my cosmetic bag and thought, “I am sending a message about lipsticks and beauty, about creating one’s image through my drawings all the time, so why not try and use those lipsticks and lip pencils to compliment my ideas?”
Creative sustainability is the future
There is so much talk about the climate change already. Unfortunately, sometimes it feels that people just got used to this as if it was background noise, kind of like advertising billboards that you are aware of but tend to ignore. The problem is that this noise does not offer solutions and doesn’t trigger individual responsibility.
By reusing old and expired lipsticks, I am giving them a second life and advocating creative sustainability. As Andy Warhol once said, “I always like to work on things that were discarded, that everybody knew were no good.” I believe that inspired people and companies are more likely to be encouraged to make small conscious decisions about the environmental footprint, and I would like to steer the conversation towards playfulness and creativity.
There will always be people who’ll say you that you cant!
I almost failed at the art academy because in my second year my drawing teacher said I could never learn to draw. Yep, that’s right. He said I will never be able to. He said I won’t even last long if I come back after the summer holidays. Did something similar ever happen to you? If it did, how did it make you feel?
Now, I was so angry and confused, of course. It was an attack on my confidence. Someone else tried to make me feel hopeless! Ok, I wasn’t a professional anatomy artist back then, but I wasn’t a terrible student, either – in fact, I made it through the entrance exams and two whole years at the art academy!
I had this little voice inside, saying: I am no Da Vinci, but I am… me! Want to know what I did next? I knew I had to fix it and prove it to myself that I can draw. I channelled my energy to action and practised drawing. Anywhere I went, I sketched on a small notepad.
I sketched all the plants at home, my mother and her friends shopping together, I’ve stayed for a few weeks at my grandma’s house by the forest and oh, was I drawing. Dresses, trees, picnics on the grass, chicken and goats, dogs and landscapes, movement, objects, passers-by, you name it. I’ve sketched them all. I was drawing daily all summer long. 90 days of summer brought me hundreds and hundreds of sketches.
And then… something changed. I’ve realized that I discovered a new love. I loved drawing! I trained my hand to slide on the paper effortlessly! And yes, I still preferred lighter, more vivid-looking sketching over a polished, old-school anatomy sketch. But guess what? Anatomical drawing lessons were over! And the new teacher that I was assigned said I have my own style! But, most importantly…
Fast-forward 10 years later, I am drawing for global brands and I still get excited about it every single time. I’ve worked with Selfridges & Co, Lipton, Moët & Chandon, Philips, Magnum, among others, have spoken at Advertising Week Europe about the use of art for marketing, and have been recognised by the President of Lithuania at Global Lithuanian Leaders Awards.
being your own boss in the 21st century as a young woman is an interesting journey for sure – I am absolutely happy that I live in the current times and grateful for all the opportunities we have today.
I’d like to see more mindset shifts among the millennial women. We should stop talking about the glass ceiling and start building our own “houses” instead, because it’s not the glass ceiling that stops most of us, it’s the scarcity mindset. It may sound banal, but if you can imagine it, you can do it. Just bridge the gap by taking small actions, one step at a time. Stay at it, and your time will come. Consistency wins.
Don’t multitask. Tackle one thing at a time, and do the most tedious task first thing in the morning in order to avoid procrastination. Define your ideal customer and do your homework first, then reach out to people and find out how can you help them. If you tend to be a perfectionist who waits around for the perfect moment, don’t wait forever. Launch that product, course, or service, and improve constantly along the way.
There’s one thing more thing. You have to keep listening to that inner voice, stay consistent (even if it scares you), and keep looking for what you truly love, otherwise, it’s very easy to lose yourself. I’ve had a few projects in the beginning of my career where the clients thought they’d wanted my style, but it turned out that they needed something completely different. Changing my illustration style altogether made me unhappy and I was certainly not feeling good signing under a sketch. I’ve decided early on to pay the bills with other jobs but stay true to my art. I’ve also learned to say no over the years and recognise if it’s not the right fit.
That’s why it’s important to discuss the brief with any potential client and have a questionnaire ready because it’s your job to figure out the client’s needs and wants and guide them with your questions. Sometimes they have a clear vision, but other times they might not have any idea what it is that they want. Ant that’s ok, too.
Of course, you can collaborate together and completely change the initial idea in the work process, and I’m all about learning and improving. But you shouldn’t start working with new clients if they’re looking for a different set of values. This is a longer path but it’s much better long-term. It’s much more rewarding and exciting when people and clients come to you because of who you are.
Be Your Own!
Image taken by Vysniauskaite
Join BEYOUROWN Membership Club
Annual Membership £450 + Registration Fee £10
Join BEYOUROWN Membership Club to connect, network and feel inspired amongst many of our like-minded ambitious women just like you.